Did you know many researchers consider the years between birth and age three as the most critical period in child development? Yet, many churches make no effort to have actual Bible classes for children under the age of three.
It’s easy to understand why. Children under the age of three aren’t reading and writing yet. Many are still struggling to speak in clearly understood language. They can barely hold a crayon correctly and their drawings look more like scribbles than anything. How can children like that possibly learn anything from a Bible class?
Yet, children under three can and do learn quite a bit when they are regularly exposed to actual Bible lessons. They can often mimic actions, respond to simple questions and get excited when they see their Bible teacher or the items for their lesson.
There are some basic tips when teaching children under three the Bible.
- Keep it simple. This is the age where Bible students need to hear the most popular and important Bible stories. These stories are often very visual – like creation, Noah or the birth of Jesus.
- Repetition is crucial. Because they are so young and experience so many new things in the course of a week, very young children may forget everything they are taught in your Bible class. The best Bible classes repeat the same story for at least a month and often three months. It’s also important to repeat some key concepts every week, regardless of the lesson. Having them pat the Bible, fold their hands (as much as they can) to pray, “singing” “Jesus Loves Me” and more establish those basic concepts.
- Have a number of objects the students handle during the lesson. Attention spans are short. Receiving a new object to handle for every point of the lesson helps keep them engaged in the lesson and gives them something concrete to remember. If you can afford it, the same item for each child is best. So for example, if you have five students, you may have five plastic suns for them to explore. Make sure all of the items are baby safe.
- Use gestures and sign language. Many babies are capable of simple sign language. Use the signs for “Jesus” or “Bible” when you use those words in your lesson. Have them point to things or hug themselves. These add movement to the lesson and create muscle memory of key signs. There are lots of videos and charts online to help you learn the ASL signs you want to use.
- Send something home to help parents repeat the Bible lesson with their children. This not only gives the student more exposure to the Bible at home, but it helps the parents begin good family Bible study habits. In our next post, we will share the details of some amazing send home materials one teacher uses successfully.
Taking the time to teach an actual Bible class to children under the age of three establishes great habits. It also begins teaching them some basics of a faith foundation. It really is worth your time and effort.